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Here Comes The Boom

In his journey from standup comedian through sitcom star and into movies, Kevin James has kept control of his career, generally serving as co-writer and co-producer of his projects. He’s carved out a niche for himself as the inoffensive answer to Adam Sandler and the Farrelly Brothers: a blue collar guy who takes his knocks and keeps it clean without preaching about it. In Here Comes the Boom he plays Scott Voss, a biology teacher at a rundown Boston high school. Ground down by years of working in a system that is determined to turn education into an assembly line, he gets his spark back when budget cuts threaten the job of his friend Marty (Henry Winkler), the music teacher. Rashly vowing to raise the $48,000 budget shortfall, he enters the painful but lucrative world of mixed martial arts fighting.

James is a burly guy who hasn’t minded using his weight for comic effect. He got into shape for this role, and if he’s still not what you would call slim, he’s moving away from the Chris Farley surrogate he was in Sandler’s awful Grown Ups and closer to a leading man ready to take on a broader range of roles. For the present, he’s believable as a guy with a moderate athletic background taking a lot of falls in a sport whose only rule is that there are no rules. (MMA is a popular sport, but non-devotees like myself may find themselves wishing for a bit of definition.) He gets a lot of help, both onscreen and off, from former UFC Heavyweight Champion Bas Rutten, who makes a goofy comic foil to James and Winkler.

With just enough hand-wringing about the sorry state of high school education to give the story a context, Here Comes the Boom relies primarily on training and fights, appealing to a mass audience’s fondness for sports and slapstick. After James’s likeablity, the biggest thing the movie has going for it is director Frank Coraci’s light touch with the material, refusing to milk it as much as it could have been. Is it bland and predictable? Sure. But so is macaroni and cheese, and who doesn’t enjoy a big bowl of that on a rainy fall afternoon?

Watch the trailer for Here Comes The Boom

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